Thursday in the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:27ff. The outspoken witness of Peter and the apostles before the Jewish council.
John 3:31ff. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.
The courage to take risks
It is always difficult to distinguish internal strength from stubborn manipulation of others. How can we know if our convictions are from God and must be obeyed at all costs, or whether it is just from pride that we resist authority? Very few have had immediate revelations from God. How then do we know that our convictions are from God?
To follow Jesus and thus to receive our strength from him presumes that we are ready to walk with him through suffering and death, even through humiliations which seem to anticipate death. Jesus was hung from a tree, the most despicable and painful of deaths. All of us, like the apostles, must be ready for experiences similar to death, risking everything for the sake of Jesus.
One norm for deciding if we are following Jesus in his humility is in these words of Scripture: we testify to this and so does the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit becomes vibrant in our hearts through long periods of prayer, week by week, even day by day. We also hear the testimony of the Holy Spirit by checking out our ideas and responses with good advisors. We all need someone from whom we hear the honest, plain truth. This interaction with the Holy Spirit in a spiritual director or advisor will keep our quiet hours of prayer from simply a task of self-introspection. Prayer and spiritual guidance are genuine, if they not only impart peace but if they also make demands upon us to grow and develop beyond our narrowness.
Another test that we can administer to ourselves in order to see if we are guided by the Holy Spirit, is pointed out in Peter’s reference to the “God of our ancestors.” Do I continuously read the Bible, so that I form a family of life and response with it? It is necessary to read on, page by page, so as to acquire an integral, whole spirituality. If we pick and choose, we may simply reenforce our own idiosyncrasies and stubborness. But if we take whatever the page offers, we will touch down on all bases of a fully human spiritual life.
This same norm of forming one family with one’s ancestors in the faith also asks us to be true to our traditions. We must interact with earlier beliefs and devotions, so that our present position will seem to be a flowering of the seed that was planted in the past. Just as Jesus came forth from the Father, lived obediently to his will even unto death, and returned to the Father, we too must live and think within a similar cycle of life. Then our testimony, like Jesus’, will witness to what we have seen and heard.
First Reading: Acts 5:27-33
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
Gospel: John 3:31-36
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.